The Accessibility Features Checklist: A Guide for Video Game Developers

3/7/20246 min read

A black sony ps 4 game controller on a purple background.
A black sony ps 4 game controller on a purple background.

In this short guide, I outline common accessibility features that video game developers should consider integrating into their design plans as early as possible in the project timeline. We will cover general features, auditory and visual features, and lastly fine motor control features. Each section will have an explanation of the feature and what options players may expect. While these are by no means all of the accessibility features to consider during the development of a video game, this guide can aid you in getting a grasp on accessibility and what it can mean to your players. Let's go!

General Features

Not all players have the same skill level or physical abilities. By offering adjustable difficulty levels, you allow players to customize the game to their own capabilities. This can include options to increase or decrease enemy AI, adjust time limits, or provide hints and tutorials.

Life happens, and players may need to take breaks or save their progress. Incorporating pause and save options allows players to step away from the game without losing their progress. This is especially important for players with disabilities or limited playtime.

Preset Difficulty Options

This title has preset difficulty options from which the player can select. In a text field, a short description of what the player can expect can be found.

Custom Difficulty Options

This title has custom difficulty options from which the player can select.

Pop-Up Adjust Difficulty

The title offers a pop-up suggestion to decrease the difficulty of the game when it is detected that the player is not successful after a certain amount of attempts.

Dedicated Accessibility Menu

In the game’s menu options, is there a dedicated section detailing the accessibility options available to the player, and it location: on first load, on the title screen or lobby, or after starting gameplay.

Tutorials

In the title’s options, are tutorials for gameplay available, and in what capacity: text, skippable, video, interactive. Developers should denote if the tutorials are available at any time and where the player can access those materials.

Save Anywhere

The player can save the game and return to play at a later time at any time in gameplay.

Fixed Save Points 

The player can save at specific points in the game, and the player can return to those save points at will. 

Auto-Save 

The game offers an autosave feature clearly indicated to the player. 

Pause Gameplay

The player can pause the game at will and all game timers stop.

Auditory and Visual Features

Not all players can rely solely on audio cues or visual feedback. By providing both options, you ensure that players with hearing or vision impairments can fully experience your game. This can include visual indicators for important sounds or audio descriptions for visual elements.

Adding subtitles or closed captions to your game can greatly benefit players who are deaf or hard of hearing. This feature allows them to follow the dialogue and understand the story without relying solely on audio cues. Make sure to provide customizable options for font size and color to accommodate different visual needs.

Master Volume Control (All)

Players can adjust all sound sources simultaneously.

Music Volume Control

Players can adjust the music volume independently of other sound sources.

Sound Effects (SFX) Volume Control

Players can adjust the sound effect(s) volume independently of other sound sources.

Dialogue Volume Control

Players can adjust the dialogue volume independently of other sound sources.

Subtitles

Consider subtitles and the ability to resizeable subtitles. Subtitles and their options can be adjusted at any time by the player.

Speaker Indicator

For subtitles, when a character speaks, they are denoted before the text associated with them. For example: Rosealyn: “There is a massive ocean ahead…”

Emotion Indicators

For subtitles, when a character displays emotion, it is denoted in parentheses. Otherwise, emojis or other emotional indicators are available on screen to show reactiveness. 

Sound Effect Descriptions

Sound effect descriptions are included in subtitle text, typically in parentheses. 

Menu Reading Available

All menus can be read to the player audibly via text to speech methods.

Narration of In-Game Text

Can narration be turned on and off for in game text that is not typically read aloud? 

Narration of Menu

Can narration be turned on and off for in menu text that is not typically read aloud? 

Narration of Gameplay

Can narration be turned on and off for other in game text that is not typically read aloud? 

Screen Magnifier 

The title offers a screen magnification option at any time during gameplay.

Proximity and/or Noise Level Indicators

Visual indicators and audible indicators are available for sounds coming from specific directions.

Screen Shake Setting

The player is able to turn on or off any screen shake at any time during gameplay?

Reduced Flashing Setting

Is the player able to turn on or off, or reduce, any flashes at any time during gameplay.

Background Opacity Slider

The background opacity (how transparent the background behind text or other information) be changed. This setting is typically available as a slider option.

Brightness

Can the player adjust the brightness of the game at any time during gameplay? This setting is typically available as a slider option.

Gamma

Gamma can be described as how smoothly black transitions to white on a digital display. This setting is typically available as a slider option.

Adjustable User Interface

A clear and intuitive user interface is essential for all players, including those with cognitive or learning disabilities. Use simple language, avoid clutter, and provide clear instructions to guide players through the game.

Font

The player can at any time adjust the font used throughout the title. Consider using established accessible fonts.

Color

The color of interface text can be adjusted at any time by the player.

Size

The size of text and its appropriate text box or background can be adjusted at any time by the player. 

Cursor

The player is able to customize the features (color, size) of the cursor used in game at any time during gameplay.

Map

The player is able to customize the color of the map or minimap used in game at any time during gameplay. 

Reticle

The player is able to customize the color of a reticle used in game at any time during gameplay.

Menus

The player is able to customize the color of menus used in game at any time during gameplay.

Colorblind Filters 

Consider implementing a colorblind mode in your game to assist players who have difficulty distinguishing between certain colors. This feature can be as simple as adding alternative color palettes or symbols to help colorblind players navigate the game more easily.

Protanopia

Tritanopia

Monochromacy

Deuteranopia

Fine Motor Features

Remember that "full support" means that everything in the game can be done with the designated control, usually since the game was designed for it. "Partial support" means that most things can be done, but an alternative input method may be needed at times. Developers should take special care to denote the type of support available for input types (controller, mouse and keyboard, etc). This same concept can be applied to keybinding support.

Allowing players to remap controls to their preferred layout can greatly improve accessibility. Some players may have physical disabilities that make it difficult to use certain buttons or controllers. By giving them the option to customize controls, you enable them to play the game comfortably and enjoyably.

Inputs Supported

Controllers (Xbox, Playstation...)

GamePad

Mouse and Keyboard

Steam Big Picture Mode

Other Input Methods

Keybind Customization

Controller

Mouse and Keyboard

Vibration Control

The player is able to turn on or off controller vibration at any time during gameplay.

Sensitivity Settings

The player is able to adjust the sensitivity of stick or mouse controlled gameplay at any time during gameplay (character movement, camera movement, etc). 

Change Repeated Taps

The player is able to change interactions requiring repeated taps/clicks to holds or single taps/clicks at any time during gameplay.

Change Button Holds To Toggles

The player can at any time during gameplay, change interactions that require buttons to be held to single presses or toggles.

Quick-Time Events (QTEs)

The player can at any time during gameplay, change these interactions to button holds, single button presses, or to auto-complete.

Autorun Function

The player can at any time during gameplay change how a character runs by holding or toggling the run button. 

Unlocked Mouse Cursor for Onscreen Keyboard Users 

Some players use an onscreen keyboard to play. An onscreen keyboard is a software-based keyboard that is available in most operating systems, especially Microsoft Windows, and in other applications. An onscreen keyboard allows users to type text using a joystick or a pointing device. Apart from improving input options for users who are physically challenged, it also serves as an alternative to a physical keyboard. Onscreen keyboards are also known as software keyboards or soft keyboards. Can the mouse cursor be used on the virtual keyboard while the game runs on the same screen? 

Inversion of X/Y Axis  

The player can at any time during gameplay, invert the X/Y axis controls.

Left-Handed Mode

The game provides a preset for keybinds or buttons for those that are left handed.

Required Motion Controls

Does the title require motion control to play? If yes, can motion control be disabled and the game still be fully playable?

Game Speed Settings

The player can at any time during gameplay change how quickly or slowly the game progresses.